Brawny, Four-cylinder, CVT-equipped Chevrolet Malibu RS Demands a Modest Price

It’s easy to make fun of what amounts to an appearance package, but appearance remains a very important part of the car-buying decision. This isn’t a Warsaw Pact country, circa 1980.

To sweeten its midsize pot, Chevrolet crafted an RS-badged version of its Malibu sedan for the 2019 model year, perhaps as a way of tempting current Redline Edition owners to trade in their rides. Once glance should tell you this thing isn’t a rental, though it still contains the turbocharged 1.5-liter four-banger you’ll find under the hood of lesser-trimmed variants. But what does extra flash and no added dash cost compared to a volume LS? As it turns out, not a lot.

According to order guides seen by CarsDirect, the 2019 Malibu RS stickers for $24,995 after destination, which is exactly a grand more than the Malibu LS.

For that price, buyers gain a blacked-out grille and Chevy emblems, 18-inch wheels, rear spoiler, and leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. Chevy makes no mention of “speed holes.” The RS, slotted between the LS and LT, does not carry the Premier trim’s 2.0-liter, 250 hp turbo engine, but it does pick up all of the styling and content changes afoot for 2019. And they are notable.

First off, 2019 Malibus gain a refreshed face with a larger — and perhaps more joyous — grille. On the transmission front, the elimination of the lower trims’ six-speed automatic means the RS sends its 160 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque to the front wheels through a continuously variable automatic. A manual shift mode and flappy paddles seems a given, as RS badging hardly conjures up images of shift-free driving. It also doesn’t conjure up images of a 1.5-liter, but for a relatively low-trimmed car costing a grand more than the rental fleet model, who’s going to make a fuss? The worst thing buyers can do is ignore it.

CarsDirect notes that the Malibu RS undercuts the price of competing Japanese sedans, including the four-cylinder Toyota Camry SE ($26,270) and Honda Accord Sport ($26,675). It’s worth noting, however, that the Accord lets you stir things up with a six-speed manual.

a version of this article first appeared on thetruthaboutcars.com

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